The former wife of Willie Apiata has described why she left the Victoria Cross winner, saying she lost her independence and that she felt "trapped and isolated" because of the couple's lifestyle.

Sade Apiata, 27, has told Woman's Day of how she desperately wanted the pair's marriage to work, but "if you're not happy, you can't make anyone else happy".

"I want nothing more than for me and Willie to both be happy," Sade Apiata told Woman's Day.

"But I lost myself when I was with him - my independence and what made me tick. It happened slowly without me even realising it. Even though I loved him as much as I did - and we really did love each other so much - in the end it, it wasn't enough."


The couple met at an army Christmas party six years ago, when Apiata was 38 and Sade, a chef for the army, was 21. They married in a low-key ceremony in September 2011 and have two boys and Apiata has a third son from a previous relationship.

Sade Apiata has told the women's magazine how she felt trapped and isolated living in a rural south Auckland community while Willie was often away on charity work. "I was very isolated and lonely," she said.

Although the pair tried to reconcile in October 2015, after several months' separation, Sade Apiata said things were still no different.

"Willie asked me to come back. We both still loved each other and really wanted it to work... He was like 'Just be patient, your time will come'," she told Woman's Day.

"But it felt like it was taking forever. He really wanted to live the quiet life, whereas I'm still young and still needed to grow myself, so that put a massive strain on our marriage."

Apiata was pictured with another woman, whom he wouldn't name, at the Halberg Awards in Auckland in February this year.

Apiata is the only living New Zealander with a VC, the highest military honour. He won the award for rescuing an injured fellow soldier under enemy fire in Afghanistan in 2004.

Prime Minister John Key announced in 2012 that Apiata would be leaving the Defence Force to work for the High Wire Trust in Papakura after a 23-year military career.


In a statement, the soldier said family played a big part in his decision to leave the Special Air Service.

"This has been a decision that I have not taken lightly and it is one that has taken me many months to make. I am leaving to pursue my goals and to grow with my family."